The Oakland Athletics have several factors that play into why they have consistently been one of the best teams in all of the MLB this season, but it can be argued that the glove of Josh Donaldson may be as important as any piece of the puzzle for the American League West leaders.
Donaldson and the A’s blew a lead in the seventh inning against the red-hot Kansas City Royals in a 7-3 loss at Kauffman Stadium Thursday. Kansas City tied the game when Jarrod Dyson smacked a run-scoring single and then Norichika Aoki broke the game open with a two-run triple and Billy Butler followed with a two-run single.
Sure, Donaldson drives in runs with his 84 RBI and he smacks the ball out of the yard with his 25 home runs. He swipes a few bags (seven) here and there and he can draw a walk when it is needed. But, it is his league-best defense at third base that makes him so valuable to the Athletics.
Donaldson is hitting at a .253 clip this season, yet, according to Baseball Reference, has the second-best overall WAR in all of baseball at 6.2. Donaldson has a fine offensive WAR at 4.2, but it is his MLB-best 2.2 WAR at the hot corner that should command respect. Donaldson ranks fifth overall out of every position player in defensive WAR and is the second infielder (the other is Cincinnati Reds SS Zack Cozart) in the top five. Also, according to Bill James Online, Donaldson has saved 17 runs (third overall) at third base. Basically, all these numbers point out just how valuable he is despite not always hitting the ball.
Donaldson does commit errors because he can get to basically any ball, but because he can make so many plays with his range, arm and athletic ability, he also turns would-be extra bases into double plays.
Donaldson may not hit .300, but the case can easily be made — because of his value defensively at third — that he should be in the discussion for the American League MVP at season’s end.